As an architecture major I am fascinated with the way buildings make people feel. In my studio class, my professor is constantly reinforcing the idea that the building is designed to fit a function. I began to wonder if there was a greater meaning behind the buildings that are present in YA dystopian novels. Upon closer investigation, I found that the buildings that housed the government or controlling figure turned out to be much more grand and comfortable than those of the oppressed people who seem to be living in some state of poverty. From there I began to wonder if there was some correlation between architecture an oppression. Does architecture prevent rebellions? Does architecture create a hierarchy? Does architecture reinforce existing orders?
My presentation is titled, “Architorture: The Implications of Dystopian Architecture”. Throughout my presentation, I will be discussing how architecture can lead to oppression or promote freedom. We’ve all been in a building that has maybe made us felt trapped or uncomfortable. In addition, we have all been in a building that we have never wanted to leave. Whether we notice it or not buildings have a significant impact on a person’s emotions. I believe the emotion that is present in architecture is used to the authors advantage throughout YA dystopian novels.
To further my argument, I will analyze the YA dystopian novels How I Live Now and The Hunger Games to describe how architecture influences the oppression inflicted on the characters throughout YA dystopian novels. When discussing How I Live Now I will be talking about how the levels of oppression change as the surrounding architecture changes. In How I Live Now the kids went through a period when the military took occupation of their home leaving them in a much more vulnerable space. A similar situation happened in an article I read called, What American Cities can learn from Small-Town Neighbors, that discusses the implications of the government interfering in a rural town. This will provide me valuable information to explain how the presence of architecture can be controlled by the government and ultimately lead to a state of oppression. When I discuss The Hunger Games, I will be talking about how architecture can show social hierarchies in society, and I will discuss how the capitol used architecture to prevent rebellions.
Overall, my paper will work to prove that architecture has major impacts throughout the course of a YA dystopian novel.
Arentson, James. “What American Cities can learn from Small-Town Neighbors.” Next City, 17 Feb. 2017, https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/what-american-cities-can-learn-from-small-town-neighbors
I think it is really interesting that dystopian architecture can vary from novel to novel, but even so they all seem to inflict the same general feeling among the characters. In particular, they seem to reinforce the idea of oppression by the government.
For example, in How I live Now, my independent reading novel, when the war hasn’t quite started yet the characters live freely and without adult supervision in a picturesque home in the English countryside. Once the war picks up, the characters are forced apart and into smaller homes when the soldiers take over their home. Then they are moved into a barn, and eventually they end up seeking shelter in an old shack in the middle of the woods. As things in England got worse, and the residents of England began to feel the effects of the war, architectural comfort diminishes. When the government takes over the kids’ home they are forced into situations away from the comforts of family and the architecture simultaneously diminishes.
I believe a similar concept is true in The Hunger Games. In The Hunger Games, The Capitol contains houses and buildings of comfort and luxury. Then as the districts move further and further away from the Capitol the architecture become less aesthetically pleasing and used more to provide shelter then to provide comfort. One of the things I think is really interesting about The Hunger Games though, is that the area where architecture provides the least comfort is the area in which the Capitol is the most oppressive, the arena. The only real architecture in the area is the cornucopia, and the cornucopia only reinforces the government’s power.
Moving into my research project, I want to find out if this correlation between architecture and oppression continues throughout YA dystopian novels. I want to also look at how architecture can influence the way one acts and feels. For example, does living in poverty give one strength or break them? Does living in luxury provide a sense of entitlement and possible lead to becoming an oppressor? Overall, does the surrounding architecture in YA dystopian novels contribute to the presence of oppression?
Propaganda has been used for ages to convince people to believe in something. Propaganda can be and has been used as a tool for the government to convince people to follow their lead. In The Hunger Games, The Capitol uses a wide variety of propaganda to get the districts to remain under their control. For example, one way the capitol got the districts to go along with The Hunger Games is by making it a mandatory and a necessary way for a lot of families to get food and keep from starving. If The Hunger Games did not exist families would not be able to trade entries for tesserae.
Although the games are already mandatory, The Capitol ensures the persistence of the games by making it impossible to ignore. Speaking of making it impossible to ignore, the main form of propaganda that The Capitol uses is electronic media. The Capitol makes sure every household has a television even when they might need something else more. Katniss and her family almost starve after her dad dies, but they also always had a television to watch the games. The reason everyone has a television is so the capitol can make everyone watch the games even if they do not want to.
In addition, by giving everyone a television The Capitol can control the information that the districts receive. They can send messages out that they want the districts to hear and they can withhold information that they don’t want the districts to hear. Just like how in our society we mainly rely on digital media to deliver all our information, Panem relies on digital media to deliver all of their information. The power of this propaganda can be seen when Katniss arrives in the capitol and knows nothing about what is going on in the other districts other than what they specialize in. She later learns about the violence that has been occurring in District 11, and couldn’t believe that a district could be any worse off that District 12.
Overall, The Capitol uses media propaganda to provide the districts with only the information that they want to provide. This withholding and changing of information allows The Capitol to keep the districts under their control.
In my past experiences reading dystopian novels, I have come to define a dystopia as place designed to be unpleasant and bad in order to explain how we should change our current lifestyle. While this description is widely agreed upon, I believe that a dystopia can also be a place that on the outside seems good. In this case the world may seem fair overall, but as you take a deeper look into the society you find that basic human rights have been stripped from the population. In a dystopia that on the outside looks like a utopia (a good place), people who seem happy and equal are not allowed to think and move freely. They must act in the way their government wants them to. For example, in The Giver, the world the government has created seems happy enough in its uniformity until one finds out about everything the government has withheld from them.
Although dystopias are commonly defined as a place where everything has gone bad, the definition of dystopia can change depending on the type of novel you are reading. For example, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins takes place in a dystopian society, but it also involves aspects of an action/adventure novel and aspects of a romance novel. That being said, The Hunger Games version of a dystopian society might be defined as a society created bad by the interference of government, which ultimately results in a rebellion lead by the people. The action/adventure part comes in to play when the government makes children kill each other during The Hunger Games. This violence can be seen in the GIF below. It also comes in to play in the series as a whole, when the games cause an uprising in the districts.
In addition, combining the dystopian genre with Young Adult literature changes the definition as well. A Young Adult novel is aimed at an audience between the ages of 12 – 18. In my past experiences reading young adult novels, I have found that the majority of protagonists have been young adults in these books. With that in mind, when one combines dystopia with Young Adult literature, the rebellion that comes during dystopian novels is usually lead by a young adult. I might define a Young Adult dystopia as a place in which society has been constricted by the government or some other factor, a rebellion occurs to change this, and that rebellion is led by a young adult.